Civitas, CLF pressing on NCAE dues checkoff

A few months ago, I wrote about how an impending audit, required by statute, could spell trouble for the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE):

In August of 2014, a small change was made – a small change with potentially massive ramifications. That was the passage of House Bill 1133. The Senate used the bill as an opportunity to add language requiring an annual audit by the State Auditor certifying that the NCAE has at least 40,000 members, the majority of whom are public school teachers. As of this writing, we are fast approaching the end of North Carolina’s fiscal year, which is July 1. This means that the State Auditor will soon be issuing a report that will determine whether or not the NCAE continues to benefit from the dues check off…

…If the audit were to find that the NCAE both has 40,000 members and that a majority of these members were “public school teachers,” then the organization would continue to benefit from its dues check off. If instead, the audit finds that the NCAE’s numbers are lacking, its dues check off would immediately become void and illegal under state law. The NCAE would be forced to collect its own dues, rather than having them automatically deducted at the taxpayers’ expense. Despite all this uncertainty, one thing is clear – the impending audit has the potential to once again put both the NCAE and the Office of the State Auditor front and center.

But as of this writing, this audit still has not occurred. The Civitas Institute and the Center for Law and Freedom have been pushing and asking questions about why this is the case:

On Friday, September 18, the Civitas Institute sent letters to the North Carolina State Auditor, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), and the superintendent of the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) inquiring as to whether the NCAE legally qualifies to continue receiving its state-administered “dues checkoff” benefit.

Under North Carolina law, the NCAE must maintain a membership level of at least 40,000 in order to qualify for the dues checkoff benefit. The value of the checkoff is shown by the way the NCAE has fought in court for this benefit in recent years…

…2015 is the first year when the NCAE’s membership level will undergo a state audit. However, the exact nature of this audit and its effect are still somewhat unclear.

“It seems that the audit language was added to the statute in 2014 to give teeth to the 40,000-member requirement,” Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) Staff Attorney Elliot Engstrom said. “However, as this is the first year since the audit requirement was enacted, it’s unclear exactly how the audit is being performed. Therefore, we’re very interested to see the audit results and methodology.”

The audit comes on the heels of some experts questioning whether the NCAE’s membership numbers are still above the threshold.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a downward trend in teachers union membership both nationally and at the state level,” Civitas Institute Senior Policy Analyst Bob Luebke said. “It is well within the realm of possibility that the NCAE is now below 40,000 members.”

The state auditor’s counsel responded and told us that the audit should be out in the coming weeks. Wake County Public School System responded and simply said that it is the responsibility of the state auditor, not the school system, to verify the NCAE’s membership numbers. There has been no response from the NCAE.

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